Travelling in a group can be an incredible and life-affirming experience as long as everyone understands group etiquette and expectations, and the same is true for a Gemstone Tour with The Gemstone Detective.
If you’ve read about my travels with renowned field gemmologist, Vincent Pardieu, you’ll know that we had to spend a few lunches getting to know each other before he would invite me on one of his expeditions into the field. Vincent won’t travel with people he doesn’t know, because he cannot risk taking people who are not team players or who might pose a liability to the trip.
Though I’m always up for lunch with fellow gemstone enthusiasts, you can sign up for your Gemstone Tour without us needing to get to know each other beforehand. But—and it’s a big but—you do need to think carefully about whether an expedition is right for you.
On a Gemstone Tour you’ll get an educational, hands-on introduction to the gem trade in that location. You’ll get to visit gem mines, gem markets and gemstone & jewellery shops, and witness jewellery, goldsmithing and gem cutting & polishing workshops. Along the way, I make sure you get to experience the local culture and way of life!
So, now to the ground rules!
Gemstone Tour Etiquette and Ground Rules
Here are the 3 most important questions to ask yourself before signing up:
Do I have a good level of health and fitness?
Full disclosure of health issues is extremely important.
We have small group tours planned to South East Asia, where the weather is hot and humid. We sometimes visit places with very little shade. You need to be sure that you can handle this and come equipped with a hat, water bottle, sunscreen etc.
Most toilets outside the main hotels are squat toilets. Are your knees up to the job? The mines rarely have toilets, even for the miners. Can you cope?
Some of the tours require a certain level of fitness to reach the gem mines, which can be dangerous to navigate, with rough terrain. Are you able to walk down steep verges, balance along planks and jump over little rivers?
Can I keep to a schedule?
Gem Tours are kept deliberately short to fit into our busy lives and so our schedule is tightly packed. Are you able to respect group timings and make sure that you don’t keep your fellow travellers waiting? Heavy sleepers need to have some contingency measures in place—an alarm clock (in addition to your phone alarm); a buddy system etc!
Am I prepared to be a team player?
Are you willing to participate in activities and push yourself to try new experiences and foods? It can really drag a group down if there’s one person who refuses to try anything new or unfamiliar. These expeditions are designed to immerse you not only in the gem trade of each location, but also the local culture—grab the opportunity with both hands and get involved!
I am so fortunate to have been able to visit Mogok. The last time I visited Myanmar in 2018, Mogok was closed so I could not complete my research. I was only able to visit Mandalay and Yangon.
But, after a successful three-day event to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Mogok in March 2018, the Government in Myanmar re-opened the doors to Mogok (a city in the Pyin Oo Lwin District of the Mandalay Region of Myanmar), granting access to international tourists and visitors.
I jumped at the opportunity to visit Mogok and explore the region, 200kms north of Mandalay. And now that I have been, I can complete my writing – the next book in the Gemstone Detective series – Buying Gemstones & Jewellery in Myanmar .
I can confidently say that this essential guide for tourists will be published in mid 2020. Pre-order your author-signed copy now!
Although I have not quite finished writing the travel guide, which will be a valuable resource for gem collectors, I am delighted to have been asked to share my knowledge and photos at the Scottish Gemmological Association November Symposium on Saturday 9th November, 2019.
I am also organising a Gem Tour for 2020. Mogok is not an area to travel alone so if you would like to visit Mogok, sign up to hear more about Gem Tours with Gemstone Detective.
I hope you were able to find a few minutes to read Who is the Author – Parts 1 & 2. This is the final Who is the Author Q&A blog post.
What is the biggest mistake people
make when buying a gemstone that you tackle in the books?
The biggest mistake I think people make is being too trusting. One thing that I have learned through my
travels is that not many people working in the gem trade have real knowledge
about what they’re selling. They might
talk the talk – but how much do they really know about gemstones? You have to be so careful about who you buy
Unfortunately, it often comes down to survival. Competition is cut throat, there are bills to pay and families to feed. It’s a dog eat dog world out there and many people are willing to be dishonest to make money.
But that’s why it’s so important to take care and buy from people who can
advise you properly – people with real knowledge and if you’re buying a
precious gemstone, can give you a certificate from a reputable laboratory.
Who is the Author – Part 3
The Worldwide book offers the widest, most general appeal,
to anyone interested in buying a real gemstone – it looks set to be very
popular. What led to the creation of this
book, what sort of topics does it cover and who do you hope will read it?
After I had written the first few books, it became apparent that there was a market for a more general book on buying and caring for gemstones. It’s great for people who want to know more, but haven’t booked a holiday yet, or who want to buy a gemstone in their home country. I’ve taken out the country-specific detail, which has enabled me to add a few new topics.
I think the most helpful knowledge I share will be about choosing a diamond engagement ring. It was my husband’s idea to include an easy-to-follow guide to buying a diamond after confessing that he wished he’d known more about it when he chose our engagement ring 12 years ago. It’s written to help those who find themselves in a similar position – not knowing anything about diamonds but wanting to put a carat or two on their loved one’s finger. I talk about the 4Cs in relation to diamonds, the different ring styles and gemstone cuts, and I share some tips on making your holiday proposal one to remember!
handful of other new topics in the book, but I don’t want to spoil all the surprises!
Who is the Author – Part 3
What are your top tips for anyone who
wants to buy a real gemstone, such as a diamond, in the UK?
It doesn’t matter where in the world you are buying a diamond from, the exact same rules apply – make sure you buy from a reputable jeweller, and make sure it comes with a certificate – preferably a GIA lab report.
My other suggestion is to buy only what you can afford. Don’t listen to all the hype about how many months salary you should spend on a diamond – that was a line made up by a well-known diamond company to boost sales in the 1930s! Buy something that your loved one will enjoy wearing and that will suit the lifestyle you live.
It’s no surprise that people start looking for their dream beach holiday in the dark, cold weeks after Christmas. This year, I’ve seen some lovely beaches on my travels researching the Gemstone Detective Series of pocket guide books to buying gemstones and jewellery abroad. So, if you’re wondering which country to head to for your next beach holiday, here’s my round-up of the best beaches near to the shopping and sightseeing hotspots of Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and Australia.
BeautifulHikkaduwa beach is under an hour and a half away from Sri Lanka’s bustling capital, Colombo. It’s perfect for those who like a mix of sunbathing and more active pursuits. If you’re keen on experiencing Sri Lankan culture on your beach holiday, you should definitely plan to spend time in Galle. There’s plenty to see, from Buddhist temples, old colonial architectural buildings and—of course—the famous gem markets! Unawatuna beach, south of Galle, is popular with tourists thanks to its palm-lined beaches and clear blue waters.
Chanthaburi is synonymous with Thailand’s gem trade – so much so that one of the main roads in the city is called ‘Gem Street’! It’s not only a great place to visit in itself, but is also a gateway to beach holiday favourite, the island of Koh Chang. You’ll be spoilt for choice here. Pick Lonely Beach for great nightlife (a bit of a misnomer, I know!) and Klong PraoBeach for white sand and low-key relaxation.
Goa lies along India’s most famously beautiful coastline and there are numerous picture-perfect places for your beach holiday. Try Calanguteif you want a friendly holiday with everything on offer, from delicious Goan curries, watersports and colourful markets. Don’t forget to take my upcoming book, Buying Gemstones and Jewellery in India, if you want to avoid getting caught by the infamous Goa Gem Scam! For a quieter, less touristy feel, head north to Sinquerim beach.
I had a blast on Australia’s Opal Circuit! The Gold Coast is the penultimate stop on the circuit and has miles of glorious, sandy beaches. It’s a great place if you want your beach holiday to include incredible wildlife, the freshest seafood you’ve ever tasted and of course, great surf. Try the aptly named Surfer’s Paradise beach and take a look at the incredible opals on sale when you’re tired of riding the waves.
You’ll find a beach holiday comes with a hefty dose of culture in Sydney, famous for its opera house, zoo, museums and the Sydney harbour bridge. If you’re looking for somewhere a bit quieter than the famous Bondi Beach, try Manly Beach instead.
Whichever destination you choose for your beach holiday, arm yourself with my Gemstone Detective series and don’t let a scam spoil your fun!
A very warm welcome to the Gemstone Detective book series. Imagine for a moment, sweeping white beaches against a clear, azure sea. Imagine local markets, ancient temples, exotic fruits and the scent of flowers on the evening breeze. It’s been a perfect holiday. Perhaps you and your loved one have just made the decision to spend the rest of your lives together? Perhaps you and your girlfriends are together on a longed-for reunion trip? Or perhaps you’re celebrating your independence by backpacking around Southeast Asia?
You want to mark the occasion with a souvenir of your incredible trip – and what better than a beautiful piece of jewellery? The next day, you go shopping…
But where should you start? How do you buy a gemstone or jewellery abroad with confidence? How can you tell whether the gem lying before you on the shop counter is a genuine sapphire, a semi-precious substitute or – much worse – a piece of glass?
Your quandary is exactly why I launched Gemstone Detective in 2018 – to help you find buy a gem abroad without falling victim to the scammers.
I have loved gems all my life. I’m a professional photographer and gemmologist with qualifications from the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) – the world’s most respected gemmological research body. Over the last 10 years I have visited almost 50 different countries in pursuit of the perfect shots, the perfect gemstones. Along the way, I have worked alongside leading gemmological experts. I’ve made contacts worldwide within the gem trade. And, while I’ve certainly had my own brushes with the con-artists and tricksters of this world, I’ve met hundreds of the good guys too – the hard-working miners, dealers and jewellers whose work is supporting their families and educating their kids.
There’s a lot of confusing information out there. It’s hard to know what to believe on review sites and it’s hard to find everything you need in one place. That’s where the Gemstone Detective series comes in. Each one will give you all the local knowledge you need to feel confident about getting the real deal for the best price.
But these books are also about something much deeper than getting more diamond for your dollar. The Gemstone Detective series is about the experience – the romance – of buying a gem abroad. It’s about connecting your gem with incredible memories and smiling when you look down at the ring on your finger. It’s about bringing a little of that holiday sparkle back home with you and wearing it next to your heart. I hope that my blog inspires you to take your next adventure and delve into the treasure trove of natural gemstones and jewellery! Happy gem hunting!